Once a B-list hair band that earned Don Dokken's praise, XYZ has returned a dozen years after its last record with a new album of smart and modern hard rock that manages to acknowledge XYZ's past without wallowing in it. Letter to God opens with "What's On Your Mind," which fits right in with today's mainstream rockers, while the pretty mid-tempo ballad "Well" sounds unlike anything this band has ever recorded. "Touch the Sky" boasts a bluesy swagger, and "Never Too Late" finds singer Terry Ilous paying homage to Robert Plant. Most impressive, though, is the title track — a song that lyrically searches for answers after the tragic loss of original singer Terry Ilous' son, yet musically rocks harder than almost anything else on the album. Equally as moving is "Asking," a ballad about a son coming to grips with his relationship with his father. There's even an impressive Spanish-language version of the solid rocker "Tango."
Original XYZ drummer Paul Monroe (along with guitarist J.K. Northrup and former Great White bassist Sean McNabb) joins Ilous. Plus, the band's original guitarist Marc Diglio co-wrote several of the tracks on Letter to God. In another nod to the past, XYZ re-recorded two early hits from 1989, "What Keeps Me Loving You" and "Inside Out." Unfortunately, the new versions aren't as good as the old ones.
Still, give credit where credit is due. With Letter to God, the members of XYZ have distanced themselves from their aging hair-band brethren and crafted a mature record that doesn't sound nearly as out of place in 2003 as you might think.